World Cup 2014: 5 Biggest Talking Points from the Quarter-Final Games

Dan Sheridan@@dansheridanContributor IJuly 6, 2014

World Cup 2014: 5 Biggest Talking Points from the Quarter-Final Games

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    The semi-final line-up at this summer’s World Cup is complete, with hosts Brazil taking on Germany on Tuesday and Argentina facing Holland the following day.

    But the road to the last four was littered with incident and drama, as Colombia, France, Costa Rica and Belgium all crashed out of the South American showcase.

    There were brave performances, heart-breaking injuries, controversial decisions and disappointing displays along the way, as well as one of the bravest substitutions of all time.

    So with a quartet of big names remaining as the competition reaches its climax, and in no particular order, Bleacher Report takes a look at the five biggest talking points of the quarter-finals.

Tim Krul’s Penalty Shootout Heroics

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    Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

    As Holland and Costa Rica toiled to no avail in Salvador, and as extra-time entered its final few moments, Holland boss Louis van Gaal made a staggering call from the dugout.

    With a penalty shootout looming, the Dutch manager amazingly opted to swap goalkeepers, with Newcastle United’s Tim Krul replacing Ajax stopper Jasper Cillessen.

    And in one of the most talked-about episodes of the tournament, the gamble paid off in spectacular fashion, with Krul saving from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to send his country through.

    To further substantiate Van Gaal’s bold decision, the 26-year-old dived the right way for every single one of Costa Rica’s spot-kicks and threw in a few mind games for good measure.

    Depending on how you translate it, the switch can be construed as an insult to Cillessen, a calculated long-term strategy or a stroke of impulsive managerial genius.

    In short, it was one of the most remarkable substitutions in World Cup history.

France and Belgium’s Failure to Fire

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    Pool/Getty Images

    France had netted 10 goals in four games in the lead up to the quarter-finals, while Belgium were many people’s dark horses to go all the way in Brazil.

    But in the end, two insipid displays saw the pair crash out of the competition in lacklustre fashion.

    Didier Deschamps’ side were thwarted at every turn by a typically organised Germany side, while the Belgian’s registered just one shot on target against Argentina.

    Quite why teams that included the mercurial talents of Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba, Divock Origi and Karim Benzema failed to fire will remain one of the tournament’s great mysteries.

    And while some have pointed toward fatigue, the only certainty is that neither nation had envisaged bowing out with such a whimper.

Neymar’s Tournament-Ending Injury

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    Fabrizio Bensch/Associated Press

    For a moment on Friday, the whole of Brazil held its breath as their star man Neymar lay strewn on the turf following a reckless challenge from Colombia’s Juan Camilo Zuniga. 

    And within a matter of hours, their worst fears were realised as the 22-year-old was ruled out for the remainder of the tournament with a broken vertebra in his spine.

    That referee Carlos Velasco Carballo took no action merely rubbed salt into the wounds and even a heartfelt apology from Zuniga has failed to lift Brazilian spirits.

    As Henry Winter’s report in The Telegraph confirmed, the tackle was widely condemned, with legendary striker Ronaldo calling it “violent” and “unlawful." 

    Whatever your view, the host nation have been robbed of their most creative talent ahead of the semi-final clash with Germany, and his absence could end the dreams of millions.

Costa Rica and the Penalty That Never Was

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    As sports pages across the globe don images of Louis Van Gaal and Tim Krul, spare a thought for Costa Rica, who were denied a legitimate chance to defeat the Dutch in extra-time.

    Admittedly, Holland had enough goalscoring opportunities to avoid their shootout drama, but not for the first time in the competition, a referee’s failure to act proved crucial.

    As the Central Americans poured forward in what was a rare attack, defender Ron Vlaar clumsily made contact with Marco Urena inside the penalty area and send the striker tumbling.

    The stadium—as well as the watching world—held its breath, but Ravshan Irmatov saw nothing wrong with the challenge and waved play on.

    The headlines may have been stolen by Krul and Co., but Jorge Luis Pinto’s side head home unbeaten and with a genuine sense of achievement.

The Standard of Refereeing During Brazil vs. Colombia

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    Felipe Dana/Associated Press

    In a move that resulted in tragedy for Neymar and the hopes of his country, FIFA opted to appoint one of the most lenient referees at this summer’s World Cup for Brazil’s clash with Colombia.

    Carlos Velasco Carballo incredibly failed to act when Juan Camilo Zuniga’s high knee broke the forward’s back near the end, but what had gone before had set a worrying precedent.

    In all, their were 54 fouls during the match in Fortaleza—the most in any game at the tournament—yet Carballo failed to produce a single yellow card until well after the hour mark.

    Brazil were by no means the innocent party, and the way they hunted James Rodriguez in packs saw the attacker fouled six times without one caution handed out.

    The yellow card count at this year’s tournament is currently the lowest since 1986, but Carballo’s lack of discipline encouraged an unruly affair that brought his suitability into question.